(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
A ninth inning rally from Tennessee Tech propelled them to a come-from-behind win over Arizona State, who will have to wait until tomorrow to try to win their eighth consecutive series.
The Sun Devils (27-12) took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning, but Ryan Burr could not hold the lead, allowing four runs in the inning to give the Golden Eagles a 7-4 win. A crucial error from Colby Woodmansee gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good, and a two-run double extended their comeback. Despite his struggles, Tracy Smith did not waver in his support for his closer.
“Your going to go through little stretches like that,” he said. “I’ve said it numerous times, we wouldn’t be where we are without him. That was not his best effort, not our best effort, and we lost a baseball game. I hate that whole ‘it is what it is,’ but that is what happened. We were in a position to win a game and it didn’t happen.”
Tennessee Tech was resilient all game, scoring six of their seven runs with two outs, including all four of their ninth inning runs.
Although the Golden Eagles (20-20) held the lead for the first half of the game, it never really felt like the Sun Devils were in danger of losing until the ninth inning. They were squaring up many pitches from starter Evan Fraliex, but were struggling to get runs across the plate.
Fraliex entered the game with an underwhelming 5.50 ERA, but he held the Sun Devils in check until the fifth inning, when Colby Woodmansee ripped a double into the gap to cut the Tennessee Tech lead in half. David Greer’s home run tied the game in the following inning.
The sophomore righty finished the night allowing eight hits over five and 1/3 innings pitched and three earned runs. He was replaced by freshman Travis Moths, who immediately allowed a home run to pinch hitter R.J. Ybarra that changed the momentum in the Sun Devils favor.
“R.J. coming off the bench and coming up with a big hit put us in a position to win the game, and as I said before, we just didn’t do it,” Smith said.
Ryan Kellogg did not have his sharpest outing, but kept his team in the game. After allowing a two home run in the first that put the Sun Devils at an early disadvantage, the left-hander was able to settle down and allow just one run over his last five and 2/3 innings.
Even though this outing did not come against a marquee team, Kellogg was still being counted on, and he responded with another “Kellogg-esque” performance. Despite his no-decision, he is still atop both the team and Pac-12 leaderboard with seven wins. His ERA now stands at 3.67.
“He [Kellogg] did his job tonight, no doubt,” Smith said. “Once again goes deep into the game, six and 2/3, does a good job holding us in there. Save one pitch, probably, it was a Kellogg type performance.”
The great pitching performances continued beyond the starter, as Darin Gillies and Andrew Shaps escaped jams in the seventh and eighth inning respectively. The out recorded by Shaps was his first of the season that did not come via the strikeout.
Outside of the pitching, ASU diverted from their normal cautiousness on the base paths, attempting four steals and succeeding twice. Johnny Sewald and Joey Bielek were the beneficiaries of a pair of poor throws from the opposing catcher Hopkins. The stolen bases played a big role in why the Sun Devils were able to have 13 at bats with runners in scoring position.
However, the approach of the Sun Devil hitters at the plate threw off the strategy of the steal.
“When the runner was moving [on the 3-1 count] we didn’t execute at the plate,” Smith said. “It’s not always straight steals, and we haven’t done a great job on the some of the hit and run stuff. He got thrown out at second because we screwed something else up.”
Although ASU showed some pop at the plate, only one batter in the lineup collected multiple hits (Joey Bielek). As a team, they collected nine total hits, all of which came before the seventh inning.
They failed to add an insurance run in the eighth and were unable to mount a comeback in the ninth against Golden Eagles closer Jeb Scoggins.
The scuffling Burr has now blown three saves in his last six outings, a surprising stat because of how dominant he was up until his rough patch. According to his manager, his performance tonight will not effect his status for tomorrow’s game.
“Whatever my decision will be won’t be contingent on that he didn’t get it done tonight,” Smith said. “It will be more on how he feels. Ideally, we would prefer not to use him and rest him a bit, but my decision will not be based on this result tonight.”
The teams will face off in the rubber match tomorrow at 12:30. ASU will send the red-hot Brett Lilek to the mound.